You maybe wouldn’t pick it as a first choice holiday country, but Zambia actually is a beautiful place to spend your vacation. Read all about my trip here and the tips & suggestions I have for you when traveling to Zambia, Africa.
So I traveled in Zambia for the reason I like to visit charity organizations. Next to visiting charities, I’d love to see something of the country. In Zambia they have two very spectacular sights to see: Victoria Falls and The National Parks. I visited Victoria Falls and South Luangwa National Park. Therefore I visited Livingstone, Lusaka and Mfuwe. I flew from Amsterdam to Livingstone, Zambia with Kenya Airways, having a stop-over in Nairobi. Kenya Airways is a very good and high-quality airline to fly with and has good fares.
First stop: Livingstone
In Livingstone I stayed in Fawlty Towers hostel, a very comfortable hostel with a beautiful garden and swimming pool. They offer dorm rooms, but I stayed in a separate room for a valuable price. The rooms are according to European standards I found the bed great. Haven’t had such a comfortable bed anywhere else in Zambia. I was able to get a breakfast every morning for $3,- and free coffee, tea and pancakes throughout the day. They have free wifi as well, something that isn’t common everywhere. The hostel is very centrally situated, close to stores and restaurants (Tip: visit neighbor restaurants Zambezi and Olga’s – a charity restaurant). Fawlty Towers offers a free shuttle daily to Victoria Falls at 10 am. All you have to do is arrange a taxi back. An alternative stay could be Livingstone Backpackers – which is the most popular hostel in the city.
Livingstone lays only 6 kilometers from the Victoria Falls. To either the Zambian side, you pay $20,- and enter a calm and easy National Park where you can enjoy spectacular views. Don’t forget to bring some water repellent clothing / umbrella / poncho / raincoat, you will get pretty wet. Another option is to cross the border with Zimbabwe and visit their National Park as well. Crossing the border is an easy walk for about 20 minutes. You have to buy a visa though (or take a kaza visa when you enter Zambia, then you can go into Zimbabwe straight). I visited both sides and Zimbabwe has some very spectacular views that I wouldn’t want to miss. In general, is the Zimbabwean side bigger and a bit better organized. Entrance here is $30,- and there is a good restaurant, a shop and good information available. Just outside the entrance, you find a very good local market for souvenirs btw! From Zimbabwe I walked back to Zambia and took a taxi to the hotel.
The second day in Livingstone I visited the Okodwela organization, which has been very special and heartwarming. Read everything about my experiences on this separate blog. I got the best guide throughout the day, who also organizes bike-tours in Livingstone. He guides you through the city, shows you the local market as well as the local communities around the city. Check Cowboy Cycle Tours for his biking tours, very recommended!
Another interesting organization that is active in the Livingstone area is Zambezi Trust.
Second stop: Lusaka
From Livingstone I traveled further to the capital, Lusaka. I travelled by bus and bought a ticket at the bus station for Shalom bus. To me, this company seemed the most reliable with good quality buses. I bought the ticket one day in advance, which is recommended.
The bus took about 8 hours and was very comfortable, with easy seats and calm roads. The only slightly annoying thing? They played very loud videos during the entire ride. The videos included Zambian gospels. If you are not into gospels eight-hours, I recommend you to bring some earplugs. Other than that, Shalom was a very convenient company to travel with. In Lusaka I stayed at Best Western which was a qualitative good hotel to stay, especially if you like to work a lot, but not lay in a vibrant area. In general Lusaka doesn’t have that much to offer. I came to Lusaka to meet up with the manager of Comaco and we had a lunch meeting at a good place, called The Corner Bakery. They offer good coffee’s, spectacular cakes and nice meals for lunch. Another place i’ve heard very good things about is Latitude 15 Degrees for lunch, dinner, coffees and to stay.
My stay in Lusaka was short and effective.
Third stop: South Luangwa
From Lusaka I traveled to Mfuwe, the city closest to the South Luangwa National Park. It is possible to travel by bus from Lusaka to Mfuwe (they’ll drive over Chipata) but the bus ride takes about ten hours and is a bumpy road. As I decided to prefer a quick journey, I booked a flight with Pro Zambia. A plane ticket is pretty expensive here (especially if you book last minute), but if you book in advance you might get a good deal. Pro Zambia has “Firecracker” deals sometimes.
From my hotel, I got a shuttle to the airport (which took about 30 minutes) and from Lusaka, I flew in a little over 1 hour to Mfuwe. I went into one of those tiny airplanes with just 10 seats and I was scared as hell, as the airplane was clearly from the 80’s. In Mfuwe airport I got a pick-up from the lodge I booked. The transfer took another fourty minutes. North Luangwa is also recommended to travel too, bu takes a lot longer to reach from Lusaka or Mfuwe.
In South Luangwa, I stayed at Croc Valley Camp which is a beautiful lodge and campground on the Luangwa River. They offer a bar, restaurant, terraces and a swimming pool. They offer WIFI in the restaurant as well as electricity. You can stay in ‘turtle-rooms’ which are separate apartments with shared bathrooms and electricity, in luxury tents with bathroom en-suite, simple eco-tents with shared bathroom (no electricty, but I received a lamp) or you can bring your own tent. I stayed in an eco-tent, with shared bathroom and booked a ‘full-board’ service which means all meals are included. I would recommend this when you don’t have a car because there is no grocery store around. Or you can order each meal separately from the restaurant, but this may be higher on budget. The meals were lovely and well-serviced with high-quality food. All dinners were planned according to the times you go on Gamedrives. I liked to share dining with other guests and speak about our safari experiences. And you get more than enough: breakfast with coffee, lunch, a tea break with cake and a -course dinner. Davis, who serves the restaurant, is a true angel and his hospitality is extraordinary. Loved it!
The adventurous part of staying at Croc Valley, is the fact there are no fences and it lays directly on the Luangwa river. Monkeys and elephants are able to cross the camp anytime and at night both hippo’s and crocodiles regularly come out of the river to visit the campground. A bit scary, but exciting as well.
With each lodge in the South Luangwa area, you are able to book safaris and each lodge has its’ own rangers. All prices are comparable and I feel safari in Zambia has a fair price and is very affordable. The sights are incredible, the wildlife extraordinary here and therefore South Luangwa is an affordable and good place to do safaris. All lodges work with non-profit organizations in taking repsonsibilty for wildlife conservation, education and health.
I stayed three days in South Luangwa and didn’t leave my lodge except for safaris two days in a row. It’s really slowing you down and creating a relaxed vibe.
Other good options to stay in the South Luangwa area:
Marula Lodge (they support multiple charity projects with their ‘give back’ program) – very affordable as well
Flatdogs Camp (they support local community work) – slightly higher priced and more luxurious
Next destination: Lilongwe, Malawi
From South Luangwa area I traveled further to Malawi with public transport. More about that in the Malawi blog!